When it comes to smoking up your own beef, choosing the right cut of meat is really important. Not only will you want it to turn out delicious since you’re working hard on that smoker, but you’ll also want your meat to cook through properly so it doesn’t end up tough.
When it comes to choosing the best cuts of beef to smoke, at BBQ Starts Here we believe there are quite a few choices to consider. There are at least eight cuts you can use for smoking: beef brisket, chuck roast, beef ribs, tri-tip, top round, flank steak, sirloin steak, and ribeye.
For each one of them, we’ll be looking at all the necessary tips such as the recommended smoking technique, right smoking temperature, the time it takes, and the best wood. We’ll also add a suggestion or two from recipes for the best sauce to pair with your favorite choice of smoked beef.
Contrary to popular belief, not all cuts of beef are smoked the same way. Preparation, smoking time, smoking temperature, and the type of wood used in the smoker are all key elements in getting the supreme taste out of your chosen meat cut.
Table of Contents
- 1 Brisket
- 2 Beef Chuck Roast
- 3 Beef Ribs
- 4 Tri-Tip
- 5 Top Round
- 6 Flank Steak
- 7 Sirloin Steak
- 8 Ribeye
- 9 What is the Healthiest Way to Smoke Meat?
- 10 What are the Best Meats for Smoking?
- 11 What Are the Hardest Beef Cuts for Smoking?
- 12 Which Beef Cut has the Least Fat?
- 13 A Final Thought on Smoking Beef Cuts
When it comes to choosing the most popular beef cut for smoking in a smoker, beef brisket wins hands down. Beef brisket provides you with everything you’d expect from a good, quality cut. Brisket comes from the breast section of the animal and although it’s tough meat, it’s known for its tenderness and flavor.
Smoking the Brisket
Recipes suggest placing the brisket on the grill fat side down. Smoke the brisket until it reaches the required temperature and then removes it from the grill. Double wrap the meat in an aluminum foil wrapping and add some of the broth to retain some of the moisture. Keep the foil tightly wrapped to prevent drying out, until ready to serve.
Don’t try grilling brisket as it’s way too tough to go with this cooking method.
The cooking temperature should be 205 degrees F.
The brisket reaches its most flavorful somewhere between 10 and 14 hours.
To get the right mix for adding additional flavors to your brisket, the wood to use is oak, hickory, cherry, or pecan.
Sauce to Pair
Adding sauce will prevent the brisket from getting too dry. A popular choice is Texas BBQ sauce which is a mixture of tomatoes and spices. You’ll find a recipe online to make this sauce.
Beef Chuck Roast
Beef chuck comes from the forequarter of the animal and consists of parts of the neck, upper arm, and shoulder blade. Chuck roast is a popular choice because the meaty fibers and connective tissue make it a great option. This is also the best meat to smoke for a beginner.
How to Cook a Chuck Roast
Smoke the chuck roast directly on the grill. You can spray the roast with stock or favorite marinade every hour or so. A good tip is to place the roast into a pan with the marinade in and smoke at 250°F.
The external temperature of 250°F and the target internal meat temperature to 165°F.
Since chuck roast is smaller than brisket, it only takes 5 to 6 hours till done.
The types to use for the right flavors are either hickory or pecan.
Sauce to Pair
Recipes suggest chuck roast pairs well with red wine. A red wine sauce made with butter and shallots and which can easily be made in advance is often used. For an extra splash of flavors, you can add some garlic and diced or minced mushroom.
Here’s a quick and easy video to show you exactly how to make a red wine sauce for your next BBQ.
Beef ribs come from the chuck of the cow and consist of the ribs near the breastbone. This particular cut is not as tender as steak but has a lot more flavor. While pork ribs are generally more popular for BBQ, beef ribs can match the flavor if they’re smoked correctly.
How to Cook Beef Ribs
Prepare by removing the membrane and excess fat. After seasoning, add to the smoker. Smoke long enough to break down the connective tissues and melt the fat. This will release the crisp meaty flavor.
The ideal target internal meat temperature should be 135°F.
Will take up 5 to 6 hours in the smoker.
The chief wood chips flavors for this dish are oak, hickory, cherry, and pecan.
Sauce to Pair
One of the most popular sauce recipes is a rich Burgundy sauce. This flavorful sauce is made of burgundy wine, broth, diced mushrooms, and a variety of herbs and spices.
Tri-tip is the triangular cut from the bottom sirloin cut. Unlike other meats mentioned here that require the fat to render them, tri-tips are too lean for that process. This means it takes only an hour to smoke.
How to Cook the Tri-Tip
Once you’ve seasoned the tri-tip on all sides, place it in the smoker. You can also opt to go with grilling this meat for a great tasting experience.
Smoke until the target internal temperature reaches 120°F for a rare roast, 127°F for a medium-rare roast, 133° for a medium-roast, 140°F for a medium-well roast for a well-done roast, 150°F.
This cut will only take up to 90 minutes until done.
Supreme choices are cherry, oak, pecan, and hickory.
Sauce to Pair
A tasty favorite sauce for tri-tip is a creamy Gorgonzola sauce made with cream cheese, Gorgonzola cheese, and minced onion. Different types of cheese sauces are often served as they complement steaks.
The top round comes from the area situated above the bottom round. This type is perfect for the smoker and can be served whole, sliced up, or even in tacos. . A smoked top round roast has to be one of the tastier meals to serve your guests.
How to Cook a Top Round
The right temperature to smoke this cut is between 225 – 250°F with indirect heat. Smoke for at least 3 to 4 hours. When done, let it rest for about 10 minutes and then slice into strips or small steaks
Smoker temperature varies from 225 to 250°F and the ideal target internal temperature of 135°F.
This cut needs 4 to 5 hours to smoke to perfection.
The perfect wood chip flavor for this cut is oak.
Sauce to Pair
Mushroom sauce recipes are a great way to accentuate any beef cut but work even better with this particular cut.
In general, flank steaks are cheaper meat because their fat content is lower. Flank steaks are commonly referred to as the greatest cut of smoked beef.
How to Cook the Flank Steak
Flank steaks are most flavorful when done on the smoker for about 3 hours. Use a low and slow flame. Wrap in foil and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
Smoker temperature 225° F and meats’ temperature of 145°F.
This cut normally takes about 3 hours before done.
Going with mesquite or hickory is a good idea.
Sauce to Pair
A garlic butter sauce is a great way to complement this cut. Made from diced garlic, herbs and spices, and butter, this sauce not only adds additional flavor to your steak, it’s healthy too!
Since this cut comes from the cow’s hip, it tends to be tougher and leaner than most other cuts of beef. If you’re going to buy this cut, make sure you’ve selected the sirloin tip as this is the better option. It’s also the most tender and one of the most expensive cuts of beef.
How to Cook a Sirloin Steak
Place steaks on the smoker grates. Smoke the steaks with the lid closed until the desired temperature is reached. You can also go the grilling route instead of smoking if you want to speed up the process.
Get to 225°F for smoking and meat temperature of 145°F.
You’ll only need about 1 hour for this cut.
The right flavors would be mesquite or hickory. You could even go with a blend of the two.
Sauce to Pair
A tasty option is peppercorn sauce. A simple recipe involves double cream, fresh peppercorns, diced red onions, and different herbs for extra flavor.
Considered a prime cut, ribeye is the center portion of the rib, without the bone. Its fat marbling effect makes it a good option for the smoker.
How to Cook a Ribeye
Place the steaks on the smoker grate for about 2 hours.
The optimal temperature should be 225°F and the meat temperature should be 110°F.
Anything between 1.5 to 2 hours will do the job.
Try hickory, maple, or pecan for optimum flavoring.
Sauce to Pair
Garlic Parmesan cream sauce is a great sauce to add to ribeye and adds to the flavor of this tasty meal. By mixing chicken broth, parmesan cheese, and garlic butter you’ll be adding a burst of flavor to your ribeye.
What is the Healthiest Way to Smoke Meat?
There are a few useful tips to ensure a healthy BBQ smoking or grilling experience. Let’s have a look at a few of them:
- Start with healthy ingredients. Fresher ingredients are always a much healthier option, but if you’re thawing from frozen, ensure you let it thaw to room temperature before smoking.
- Some of the best meats to smoke in an electric smoker are your leaner cuts of beef.
- Ensure you’re using the correct wood when you are smoking. The choice of wood will play a big part in the flavor of the beef you’ve chosen. Some types of wood can add a bitter taste.
- Before adding to the BBQ smoker, ensure the smoker is at the correct temperature. This is usually between 225 – 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Smoke to target internal meat temperature. Invest in a meat thermometer to make this process easier. This will help you know when food is smoked through to the inside. The last thing you want is to serve your guests with a beautiful cut that’s raw on the inside!
- Choose lean meats that don’t have excess fat. A few healthy alternatives to consider are lamb, chicken, and leaner kinds of beef. Stay away from the fattiest cuts of beef if you’re being strict with your diet.
- Marinade meats to add extra flavor for your next BBQ meal.
- Go with rubs containing healthy ingredients.
- Avoid burning the food. Charred meats not only tastes unpleasant but is also unhealthy.
What are the Best Meats for Smoking?
The meats to add to your barbecue for the greatest smoking experience are primarily fatty meats such as pork shoulder, beef brisket, and beef or pork ribs. Sometimes the smoking process can dry out certain types of meats. The high-fat content of pork or brisket keeps the beef moist and tender.
Lamb and chicken also do well in the smoker and is a nice alternative to beef steak cuts.
What Are the Hardest Beef Cuts for Smoking?
While smoked food has a flavor like no other, there are some types of meats that are harder to smoke in the smoker than others. Beef and pork ribs are often regarded as the hardest to smoke. This is largely due to them being tough and chewy.
Which Beef Cut has the Least Fat?
Different meats have different amounts of fat content. Some of the fat content complements the taste when smoked in a smoker. The cut that’s the leanest is usually the eye round roast which only has about four grams of fat per serving. Sirloin tip, side steaks, and top round steaks are also some of the low-fat beef cuts.
A Final Thought on Smoking Beef Cuts
With all this information now at your fingertips, it’ll be easier for you to choose the best cuts of beef for your next barbecue. Adding the right wood to your smoker, and choosing the best cut of beef will result in a delicious meal to share with your guests.
Whether you prefer a juicy ribeye or a tender flank steak, there’s no denying it—there’s a beef cut that will suit your unique taste. Get out the recipes and get cooking. Firing up the smoker has just got a whole lot more exciting!